King John

Act I
Act II
Act IV
Act V
Enter Constance, Arthur, and Salisbury


Gone to be married? Gone to swear a peace?

False blood to false blood joined! Gone to be friends?
false (adj.) 1 treacherous, traitorous, perfidious See Topics: Frequency count

Shall Lewis have Blanche, and Blanche those provinces?

It is not so; thou hast misspoke, misheard.
misspeak (v.) speak inaccurately, express badly

Be well advised, tell o'er thy tale again.
well-advised (adj.) 1 prudent, sensible, thoughtful

It cannot be; thou dost but say 'tis so.

I trust I may not trust thee, for thy word

Is but the vain breath of a common man.

Believe me, I do not believe thee, man;

I have a king's oath to the contrary.

Thou shalt be punished for thus frighting me,
fright (v.), past form frighted frighten, scare, terrify See Topics: Frequency count

For I am sick and capable of fears,
capable of 2 open to, subject to, susceptible to

Oppressed with wrongs, and therefore full of fears,

A widow, husbandless, subject to fears,

A woman, naturally born to fears;

And, though thou now confess thou didst but jest,

With my vexed spirits I cannot take a truce,
truce, take come to terms, negotiate
vexed (adj.) 1 troubled, distressed, grieved

But they will quake and tremble all this day.

What dost thou mean by shaking of thy head?

Why dost thou look so sadly on my son?

What means that hand upon that breast of thine?

Why holds thine eye that lamentable rheum,
lamentable (adj.) sorrowful, mournful, sad
rheum (n.) 2 watery discharge, seepage [especially of the eyes]

Like a proud river peering o'er his bounds?
bound (n.) 1 limit, boundary, confine, barrier
peer (v.) 2 flow, rise, pour
proud (adj.) 6 swollen, high, in flood

Be these sad signs confirmers of thy words?
sad (adj.) 1 serious, grave, solemn See Topics: Frequency count

Then speak again – not all thy former tale,

But this one word, whether thy tale be true.


As true as I believe you think them false
false (adj.) 4 wrong, mistaken

That give you cause to prove my saying true.


O, if thou teach me to believe this sorrow,

Teach thou this sorrow how to make me die!

And let belief and life encounter so

As doth the fury of two desperate men

Which in the very meeting fall and die.

Lewis marry Blanche! O boy, then where art thou?

France friend with England, what becomes of me?

Fellow, be gone! I cannot brook thy sight.
brook (v.) 1 endure, tolerate, put up with

This news hath made thee a most ugly man.


What other harm have I, good lady, done,

But spoke the harm that is by others done?
harm (n.) 2 misfortune, affliction, trouble
speak (v.) 1 give an account of, report, describe


Which harm within itself so heinous is

As it makes harmful all that speak of it.


I do beseech you, madam, be content.
content (adj.) 2 contented, patient, accepting, undisturbed


If thou that biddest me be content wert grim,

Ugly and slanderous to thy mother's womb,
slanderous (adj.) disgraceful, shameful, discreditable

Full of unpleasing blots and sightless stains,
blot (n.) stain, disgrace, blemish
sightless (adj.) 2 unsightly, ugly, offensive

Lame, foolish, crooked, swart, prodigious,
crooked (adj.) 1 malignant, perverse, contrary, devious
prodigious (adj.) 2 abnormal, monstrous, unnatural
swart, swarth (adj.) swarthy, dusky, of dark complexion

Patched with foul moles and eye-offending marks,
patch (v.) 3 blotch, mark, cover over

I would not care, I then would be content,

For then I should not love thee; no, nor thou

Become thy great birth, nor deserve a crown.
become (v.) 2 grace, honour, dignify See Topics: Frequency count

But thou art fair, and at thy birth, dear boy,

Nature and fortune joined to make thee great.

Of nature's gifts thou mayst with lilies boast

And with the half-blown rose. But fortune, O,
half-blown (adj.) half-blossomed

She is corrupted, changed, and won from thee;

She adulterates hourly with thine uncle John,
adulterate (v.) commit adultery, fornicate
hourly (adj.) 2 constantly, hour by hour

And with her golden hand hath plucked on France
pluck on (v.) 1 draw on, pull in, drag in

To tread down fair respect of sovereignty,
tread down (v.) trample on, crush, repress

And made his majesty the bawd to theirs.
bawd (n.) pimp, procurer, pander, go-between See Topics: Frequency count

France is a bawd to fortune and King John,
bawd (n.) pimp, procurer, pander, go-between See Topics: Frequency count

That strumpet fortune, that usurping John!
strumpet (n.) harlot, prostitute, whore

Tell me, thou fellow, is not France forsworn?
forswear (v), past forms forsworn, forswore 1 swear falsely, perjure [oneself], break one's word See Topics: Frequency count

Envenom him with words, or get thee gone
envenom (v.) poison, taint, destroy

And leave those woes alone which I alone
alone (adv.) only, solely, uniquely

Am bound to underbear.
underbear (v.) endure, suffer, put up with


                         Pardon me, madam,

I may not go without you to the Kings.


Thou mayst, thou shalt. I will not go with thee.

I will instruct my sorrows to be proud,

For grief is proud and makes his owner stoop.

She seats herself on the ground
state (n.) 8 throne, chair of state

To me and to the state of my great grief

Let kings assemble; for my grief's so great

That no supporter but the huge firm earth

Can hold it up. Here I and sorrows sit;

Here is my throne. Bid kings come bow to it.

Exit Salisbury with Arthur,

leaving Constance seated

Enter King John, King Philip, Queen Eleanor, Lewis

the Dauphin, Blanche, the Bastard, Austria, and



'Tis true, fair daughter; and this blessed day

Ever in France shall be kept festival.

To solemnize this day the glorious sun

Stays in his course and plays the alchemist,
stay (v.) 9 stop, halt, come to a standstill

Turning with splendour of his precious eye

The meagre cloddy earth to glittering gold.
cloddy (adj.) full of clods, clay-filled
meagre (adj.) 3 barren, poor-quality, unproductive

The yearly course that brings this day about

Shall never see it but a holiday.



A wicked day, and not a holy day!

What hath this day deserved, what hath it done,

That it in golden letters should be set

Among the high tides in the calendar?
tide (n.) 1 season, date, time [of year]

Nay, rather turn this day out of the week,

This day of shame, oppression, perjury.

Or, if it must stand still, let wives with child
stand (v.) 2 continue, remain, wait, stay put
wife (n.) woman

Pray that their burdens may not fall this day,
burden, burthen (n.) 3 birth, state of pregnancy

Lest that their hopes prodigiously be crossed.
cross (v.) 1 prevent, thwart, forestall
prodigiously (adv.) with monstrous outcome, with unnatural birth

But on this day let seamen fear no wrack;
wrack (n.) 2 wreck, loss, shipwreck

No bargains break that are not this day made;

This day all things begun come to ill end,
ill (adj.) 1 bad, adverse, unfavourable See Topics: Frequency count

Yea, faith itself to hollow falsehood change!


By heaven, lady, you shall have no cause

To curse the fair proceedings of this day.

Have I not pawned to you my majesty?


You have beguiled me with a counterfeit
counterfeit (n.) 1 false imitation, spurious image

Resembling majesty, which, being touched and tried,
touch (v.) 6 test the quality [of], put to the test
try (v.) 2 put to the test, test the goodness [of]

Proves valueless. You are forsworn, forsworn!
forswear (v), past forms forsworn, forswore 1 swear falsely, perjure [oneself], break one's word See Topics: Frequency count

You came in arms to spill mine enemies' blood,

But now in arms you strengthen it with yours.

The grappling vigour and rough frown of war

Is cold in amity and painted peace,
painted (adj.) 3 feigned, counterfeit, disguised

And our oppression hath made up this league.
make up (v.) 5 create, cause the formation of

Arm, arm, you heavens, against these perjured Kings!

A widow cries; be husband to me, heavens.

Let not the hours of this ungodly day

Wear out the day in peace; but, ere sunset,

Set armed discord 'twixt these perjured Kings.

Hear me! O, hear me!


                         Lady Constance, peace!


War! War! No peace! Peace is to me a war.

O Limoges! O Austria! Thou dost shame

That bloody spoil. Thou slave, thou wretch, thou coward!
spoil (n.) 2 plunder, booty

Thou little valiant, great in villainy!

Thou ever strong upon the stronger side!

Thou fortune's champion, that dost never fight

But when her humorous ladyship is by
humorous (adj.) 1 capricious, moody, temperamental

To teach thee safety! Thou art perjured too,

And soothest up greatness. What a fool art thou,
soothe up (v.) flatter, humour, play up to

A ramping fool, to brag and stamp and swear
ramping (adj.) rampant, rearing up

Upon my party! Thou cold-blooded slave!
party (n.) 1 side, faction, camp

Hast thou not spoke like thunder on my side,

Been sworn my soldier, bidding me depend

Upon thy stars, thy fortune, and thy strength,

And dost thou now fall over to my foes?
fall over (v.) defect, revolt, go over

Thou wear a lion's hide! Doff it for shame,
doff (v.) throw off, get rid of, do away with

And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs.
recreant (adj.) cowardly, faint-hearted, craven


O that a man should speak those words to me!


And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs.


Thou darest not say so, villain, for thy life!


And hang a calf's-skin on those recreant limbs.


We like not this; thou dost forget thyself.

Enter Cardinal Pandulph


Here comes the holy legate of the Pope.


Hail, you anointed deputies of heaven!

To thee, King John, my holy errand is.

I Pandulph, of fair Milan Cardinal,

And from Pope Innocent the legate here,

Do in his name religiously demand
religiously (adv.) 2 solemnly, with all due ceremony

Why thou against the church, our holy mother,

So wilfully dost spurn; and force perforce
force perforce with violent compulsion
spurn (v.) 1 reject, scorn, despise, treat with contempt

Keep Stephen Langton, chosen Archbishop

Of Canterbury, from that holy see.

This, in our foresaid Holy Father's name,
foresaid (adj.) aforesaid

Pope Innocent, I do demand of thee.


What earthy name to interrogatories
earthy (adj.) 2 earthly, dwelling in this world
interrogatory (n.) interrogation, questioning, inquisition
name (n.) 6 rightful claimant, legitimate authority

Can task the free breath of a sacred king?
breath (n.) 1 utterance, speech, voice
sacred (adj.) 1 consecrated, hallowed, sanctified
task (v.) 1 test, try out, challenge
taste (v.) 1 try out, test, put to the proof

Thou canst not, Cardinal, devise a name

So slight, unworthy, and ridiculous,

To charge me to an answer, as the Pope.
charge (v.) 1 order, command, enjoin

Tell him this tale, and from the mouth of England

Add thus much more: that no Italian priest

Shall tithe or toll in our dominions;
tithe (v.) levy a tax, collect church revenue
toll (v.) 1 levy a toll, exact a payment

But as we, under God, are supreme head,

So, under Him, that great supremacy

Where we do reign we will alone uphold,

Without th' assistance of a mortal hand.

So tell the Pope, all reverence set apart
set apart (v.) discard, abandon, cast aside

To him and his usurped authority.


Brother of England, you blaspheme in this.


Though you, and all the kings of Christendom,

Are led so grossly by this meddling priest,
grossly (adv.) 4 stupidly, senselessly, foolishly
lead (v.) 2 govern, dominate, direct

Dreading the curse that money may buy out,
buy out (v.) 2 get rid of, cancel by making a payment

And by the merit of vile gold, dross, dust,

Purchase corrupted pardon of a man,

Who in that sale sells pardon from himself –

Though you and all the rest, so grossly led,

This juggling witchcraft with revenue cherish,
cherish (v.) 2 nourish, cause to grow
juggling (adj.) deceiving, cheating, full of trickery

Yet I alone, alone do me oppose

Against the Pope, and count his friends my foes.


Then, by the lawful power that I have,

Thou shalt stand cursed and excommunicate,

And blessed shall he be that doth revolt

From his allegiance to an heretic;

And meritorious shall that hand be called,

Canonized and worshipped as a saint,

That takes away by any secret course
course (n.) 1 course of action, way of proceeding See Topics: Frequency count

Thy hateful life.


                         O, lawful let it be

That I have room with Rome to curse awhile!
room (n.) 3 opportunity, scope, chance

Good father Cardinal, cry thou ‘ Amen ’

To my keen curses; for without my wrong

There is no tongue hath power to curse him right.


There's law and warrant, lady, for my curse.


And for mine too; when law can do no right,

Let it be lawful that law bar no wrong.

Law cannot give my child his kingdom here,

For he that holds his kingdom holds the law.

Therefore, since law itself is perfect wrong,

How can the law forbid my tongue to curse?


Philip of France, on peril of a curse,

Let go the hand of that arch-heretic,

And raise the power of France upon his head,
power (n.) 1 armed force, troops, host, army See Topics: Frequency count

Unless he do submit himself to Rome.


Lookest thou pale, France? Do not let go thy hand.


Look to it, devil, lest that France repent,

And by disjoining hands, hell lose a soul.
disjoin (v.) disengage, separate [oneself]


King Philip, listen to the Cardinal.


And hang a calf's-skin on his recreant limbs.


Well, ruffian, I must pocket up these wrongs
pocket up (v.) put up with, endure, swallow

Because –


                         Your breeches best may carry them.


Philip, what sayst thou to the Cardinal?


What should he say, but as the Cardinal?


Bethink you, father, for the difference
bethink (v.), past form bethought 1 call to mind, think about, consider, reflect See Topics: Frequency count
difference (n.) 5 choice, alternative, option

Is purchase of a heavy curse from Rome,
heavy (adj.) 2 grave, serious, weighty

Or the light loss of England for a friend.

Forgo the easier.
easy (adj.) 1 slight, petty, insignificant


                         That's the curse of Rome.


O Lewis, stand fast! The devil tempts thee here

In likeness of a new, untrimmed bride.
untrimmed (adj.) 2 [unclear meaning] unbedded, virgin


The Lady Constance speaks not from her faith,

But from her need.


                         O, if thou grant my need,

Which only lives but by the death of faith,

That need must needs infer this principle,

That faith would live again by death of need.

O then, tread down my need, and faith mounts up;

Keep my need up, and faith is trodden down.
tread down (v.) trample on, crush, repress


The King is moved, and answers not to this.
move (v.) 1 arouse, affect, stir [by emotion]


(to King Philip)

O, be removed from him, and answer well!


Do so, King Philip; hang no more in doubt.


Hang nothing but a calf's-skin, most sweet lout.


I am perplexed, and know not what to say.
perplexed (adj.) 2 bewildered, distracted, disoriented


What canst thou say but will perplex thee more,

If thou stand excommunicate and cursed?


Good reverend father, make my person yours,

And tell me how you would bestow yourself.
bestow (v.) 8 carry, bear, acquit, conduct

This royal hand and mine are newly knit,
knit (v.) 1 unite, join, make one

And the conjunction of our inward souls
conjunction (n.) 1 union, uniting, joining together

Married in league, coupled and linked together

With all religious strength of sacred vows;

The latest breath that gave the sound of words
late (adj.) 1 recent, not long past

Was deep-sworn faith, peace, amity, true love

Between our kingdoms and our royal selves;

And even before this truce, but new before,
even, e'en (adv.) 2 just [now]
new (adv.) 2 immediately, just

No longer than we well could wash our hands

To clap this royal bargain up of peace,
clap up (v.) 1 seal, settle hastily, complete suddenly

Heaven knows, they were besmeared and overstained
besmear (v.) 1 smear over, bedaub
overstain (v.) cover with stains, smear over

With slaughter's pencil, where revenge did paint
pencil (n.) finely-pointed paint-brush

The fearful difference of incensed kings.
difference (n.) 1 quarrel, disagreement, dispute
incensed (adj.) inflamed, angered, enraged

And shall these hands, so lately purged of blood,
purge (v.) 1 cleanse, purify, get rid of impurities [in]

So newly joined in love, so strong in both,

Unyoke this seizure and this kind regreet?
regreet (n.) fresh greeting, return of salutation
seizure (n.) grasping of hands, clasp, hold
unyoke (v.) 1 separate, disjoin, unlink

Play fast and loose with faith? So jest with heaven,

Make such unconstant children of ourselves,
unconstant (adj.) changeable, fickle, unpredictable

As now again to snatch our palm from palm,

Unswear faith sworn, and on the marriage-bed

Of smiling peace to march a bloody host,

And make a riot on the gentle brow
brow (n.) 4 forehead [often plural, referring to the two prominences of the forehead]

Of true sincerity? O holy sir,
gentle (adj.) 6 soft, tender, kind

My reverend father, let it not be so!

Out of your grace, devise, ordain, impose

Some gentle order, and then we shall be blessed
gentle (adj.) 4 peaceful, calm, free from violence
order (n.) 1 arrangement, disposition, direction

To do your pleasure and continue friends.


All form is formless, order orderless,

Save what is opposite to England's love.
opposite (adj.) opposed, hostile, adverse, antagonistic [to]

Therefore to arms! Be champion of our church,

Or let the church, our mother, breathe her curse,

A mother's curse, on her revolting son.
revolting (adj.) rebellious, mutinous, insurgent

France, thou mayst hold a serpent by the tongue,

A chafed lion by the mortal paw,
cased (adj.) 2 caged; or: living
chafed (adj.) enraged, irritated, angered
mortal (adj.) 1 fatal, deadly, lethal

A fasting tiger safer by the tooth,

Than keep in peace that hand which thou dost hold.


I may disjoin my hand, but not my faith.
disjoin (v.) disengage, separate [oneself]


So makest thou faith an enemy to faith,

And like a civil war settest oath to oath,

Thy tongue against thy tongue. O, let thy vow

First made to heaven, first be to heaven performed,

That is, to be the champion of our church.

What since thou sworest is sworn against thyself

And may not be performed by thyself.

For that which thou hast sworn to do amiss

Is not amiss when it is truly done;

And being not done, where doing tends to ill,
ill (n.) 1 wrong, injury, harm, evil

The truth is then most done not doing it.

The better act of purposes mistook
act (n.) 1 activity, action, performance
purpose (n.) 1 intention, aim, plan See Topics: Frequency count

Is to mistake again; though indirect,

Yet indirection thereby grows direct,
indirection (n.) 2 devious means, malpractice

And falsehood falsehood cures, as fire cools fire

Within the scorched veins of one new-burned.

It is religion that doth make vows kept,

But thou hast sworn against religion

By what thou swearest against the thing thou swearest,

And makest an oath the surety for thy truth
surety (n.) 1 guarantee, ratification, warrant

Against an oath! The truth thou art unsure

To swear, swears only not to be forsworn –
forswear (v), past forms forsworn, forswore 1 swear falsely, perjure [oneself], break one's word See Topics: Frequency count

Else what a mockery should it be to swear!

But thou dost swear only to be forsworn,

And most forsworn to keep what thou dost swear.

Therefore thy later vows, against thy first,

Is in thyself rebellion to thyself;

And better conquest never canst thou make

Than arm thy constant and thy nobler parts

Against these giddy loose suggestions.
giddy (adj.) 2 foolish, stupid, ill-considered
loose (adj.) 2 immoral, improper, contemptible
suggestion (n.) temptation, instigation, prompting towards evil

Upon which better part our prayers come in,
part (n.) 2 side, camp, party

If thou vouchsafe them. But if not, then know
vouchsafe (v.) 1 allow, permit, grant See Topics: Politeness

The peril of our curses light on thee

So heavy as thou shalt not shake them off,

But in despair die under their black weight.


Rebellion, flat rebellion!


                         Will't not be –

Will not a calf's-skin stop that mouth of thine?


Father, to arms!


                         Upon thy wedding-day?

Against the blood that thou hast married?
blood (n.) 7 nobility, breeding, gentility, good parentage

What, shall our feast be kept with slaughtered men?

Shall braying trumpets and loud churlish drums,
churlish (adj.) 2 violent, rough, harsh

Clamours of hell, be measures to our pomp?
measure (n.) 9 accompaniment, background melody
pomp (n.) 1 pageant, ceremony, procession

O husband, hear me! Ay, alack, how new

Is ‘husband' in my mouth! Even for that name,

Which till this time my tongue did ne'er pronounce,

Upon my knee I beg, go not to arms

Against mine uncle.


                         O, upon my knee,

Made hard with kneeling, I do pray to thee,

Thou virtuous Dauphin, alter not the doom
doom (n.) 2 final destiny, deciding fate, death and destruction

Forethought by heaven.
forethink (v.) anticipate, foresee, predict


Now shall I see thy love! What motive may

Be stronger with thee than the name of wife?


That which upholdeth him that thee upholds,

His honour! O, thine honour, Lewis, thine honour!


I muse your majesty doth seem so cold,
cold (adj.) 4 indifferent, unenthusiastic, uninterested
muse (v.) 1 wonder, be surprised

When such profound respects do pull you on!
profound (adj.) 1 weighty, important
respect (n.) 1 consideration, factor, circumstance


I will denounce a curse upon his head.
denounce (v.) declare, proclaim, announce


Thou shalt not need. England, I will fall from thee.
fall from (v.) desert, forsake, renounce


O fair return of banished majesty!


O foul revolt of French inconstancy!


France, thou shalt rue this hour within this hour.


Old Time the clock-setter, that bald sexton Time,
clock-setter (n.) clock-keeper, clock-regulator

Is it as he will? Well then, France shall rue.


The sun's o'ercast with blood; fair day, adieu!

Which is the side that I must go withal?

I am with both; each army hath a hand,

And in their rage, I having hold of both,

They whirl asunder and dismember me.

Husband, I cannot pray that thou mayst win;

Uncle, I needs must pray that thou mayst lose;

Father, I may not wish the fortune thine;
fortune (n.) 1 good fortune, success

Grandam, I will not wish thy wishes thrive;

Whoever wins, on that side shall I lose –

Assured loss, before the match be played!


Lady, with me, with me thy fortune lies.


There where my fortune lives, there my life dies.


Cousin, go draw our puissance together.
puissance (n.) power, might, force

Exit the Bastard

France, I am burned up with inflaming wrath –

A rage whose heat hath this condition,
condition (n.) 2 quality, behaviour, attribute, habit

That nothing can allay, nothing but blood,

The blood, and dearest-valued blood, of France.


Thy rage shall burn thee up, and thou shalt turn

To ashes, ere our blood shall quench that fire.

Look to thyself, thou art in jeopardy!


No more than he that threats. To arms let's hie!
hie (v.) hasten, hurry, speed See Topics: Frequency count


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